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Defending Kirill With A Cossack Whip

Things haven't been all plain sailing for the Patriarch Kirill, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church, during his 10-day trip to Ukraine.

The question being debated in Ukraine and beyond is whether it really is unity between the Russian and Ukrainian churches that Kirill wants, or whether it's subservience, as Ukrainian nationalists argue.

Writing in "The Guardian," Adrian Pabst argues that Kirill, rather than doing the Kremlin's bidding, really does want a unified and independent Orthodox Church.

(There's a pretty good debate about his motives in the comments section of "The Guardian" piece.)

Kirill's visit got off to a rocky start earlier in the week when he was leading prayers at a monument to St. Vladimir. Nearby, Ukrainian nationalists protested and shouted slogans: the more restrained, "Get Out Moscow Pope!" and the more extreme, " Kirill-Pedophile."

But the patriarch has some serious protection, with a Cossack colonel in Kirill's entourage telling RFE/RL's Russian Service that he's carrying "the traditional Cossack weapon," the "nagajka" (a kind of whip), in the "traditional Cossack defense" of the "Holy Orthodox Church" and that he will use it on anyone chanting "Kirill-Pedophile."

But as one of my Russian colleagues pointed out, history has shown that whenever Russia relies on the Cossacks, for instance in the Civil War where they fought on both sides, things tend to end rather badly.

But the Cossack officer hasn't lost hope: "Protecting the patriarch is second only to protecting the tsar, which we don't have for the time being. But we don't lose hope."

-- Luke Allnutt

About This Blog

Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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